Two Sides of the Same Coin
He grabs onto the metal bars – struggling to break through his madness and pain – screaming in agony as he yells for help. The bars remain steadfast. The yelling gets more frantic. His vocal cords are now dry – and his screams begin breaking into random shrieks of silence. You see Ramanna – or Raman – as the victim. And then –
One second he’s wailing – the next he’s casually peering through the bars. Calm as a cow in a crowded street in Mumbai. Unperturbed. Unassuming. But most importantly – mind numbingly freaky.
You think a screaming man is scary. Try ‘screaming man stops screaming abruptly’.
Then try ‘woman who badly wants to scream but keeps it all in until the moment of collapse – until finally letting it all out in one single wail of gut wrenching agony’. Without spoiling it for you – the scene I’m referring to is brilliant on so many levels – that I almost stood up to give the director a standing ovation – only to realise that it would be to no effect since the theatre we were in was nearly empty! Perhaps Anurag Kashyap can find solace in knowing of the empty theatre we witnessed when we went for the first night show of ‘Spotlight’ when it released in India as well. But the anguish of residing in a place where Doom 3 runs houseful for 3 weeks straight quickly melts away in the face of the grim portrayal of the city in this film.
In a way perhaps – the bars behind which Nawazuddin Siddiqui struggles to escape are the ones of judgement.
A sense of order we try to make of the chaos. They are the bars of “psychotic behaviour” society attaches to his character, as the only possible motive for the killings. We need an answer for the senseless brutalities of the world. And when you’ve run out of spaces to hide behind phoney causes like religion – the only bars you are confined to – are those of irrationality.
(That’s the bell. Gimme a minute – I’ll be back…)
*Opens the door. Dude with a helmet stares right back, bent low towards one side clutching a metal ‘L-shaped’ rod that’s touching the floor…*
“What THE -?!”
Creepy helmet dude charges – rod bouncing off the edge of each tile as it drags, as though itching to be lifted and brought down with greater purpose. The sound it emanates seizes control of your reflexes. You’re paralyzed with a rapidly transforming blend of confusion, horror and ‘Is-this-really-happening-?”
We’re back to focussing on a packet of McDonalds leftovers, abandoned on the side of the road. Destined to be picked up by the rag pickers and the stray animals that inhabit the lower echelons of the society we live in.
– we’re in a club. Loud music. The rhythmic lights of bliss pulsing through your veins as you snort your way to freedom from the stress of the job. You’re a cop – the party is over – you’re with a woman. The movie has begun. All you know is – someone, somewhere – lost on the other side of the law – thinks you’re their soulmate.
And thus begins the story of perhaps the most twisted closeup of a psychotic character in Bollywood history.
Raman, as we are already led to believe, is plain bonkers. But Raghav inhabits an opposing world. A world atop high rises and parties and addictions and pain. Their only moments of similarity being their affinity towards sunglasses.
Even in the dark.
To fully comprehend the genius of Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’, you need to first realise 2 things.
One – It’s not a biopic about the original “Raman Raghav” serial killer, who’s true story you can find on this killer website called “Wikipedia”. You should take some time out of from practising for ‘the-selfie-pout-competition’ and read up on it sometime.
Two – This movie is not trying to be preachy – or offer explanations about how the characters came to be what they are.
This is a crucial deciding factor between “loving” or “hating” the movie. The fact that it’s unexplained makes it brilliantly in it’s ambiguity, perhaps ruining it slightly, only with the dumbing down for the audience in the end. (EDIT: Anurag Kashyap released a deleted scene giving more context to Vicky Kasha’s character later – but it would have been cooler to let the audience imagine the background in my opinion, since in real life, characters don’t wear their background explanations on their sleeves.)
The movie is a simple extract from the page in the life of 2 seemingly differing personalities. It just… is – and starts as abruptly as it ends. Like this senten-…
It’s about taking a normal scenario – and playing it out along the backdrop of Mumbai – utterly bare and unimaginably honest. Inciting fear and re-enforcing all the goddamn stereotypes your paranoid mother narrated to you about killers roaming the streets of your neighbourhood. Waiting to pick on naughty boys like you, who didn’t finish their cereal. Or the latest Ayurvedic 15-in-1 magic ‘Chyawanprash’ for intelligence (that tasted like rotten eggnog mixed with bitter gourd).
Halfway through the movie – you realise that Anurag Kashyap has taken the kind of dread that was once exclusive to horror movies, and shove it down your throat, wriggling its way under your skin only to resurface at random intervals as Goosebumps, every time Nawazuddin finishes a cold monologue.
And just when you look away from the screen – your heart beating way faster than normal – as the killer brings his blunt object of violence crashing down, Kashyap decides to complement the gruesome gesture with absolutely contradictory music, almost glorifying the act in a twisted kind of way.
And if that wasn’t Tarantino-ishly cool enough, the movie also gets bad ass chapters with cheeky titles!
To give you more perspective – imagine there’s a cockroach chilling on the floor in your bedroom. Harmless yet hated. You crush it without a moment’s pause. The reason you did it doesn’t matter. All you know is it needed to be done. Now replace that cockroach with Lizard. And suddenly you’re a bit more sceptical – cause of the mess the squashing a lizard creates. A sudden realisation dawns upon you at that moment.
“The need to rethink an act of violence drastically increases with the predicted aftermath of the act.” – Quote from The Epitaphs of Sarcofagus.
Coming back to the analogy – replace “Lizard” with “Rat”. Then go a notch higher and think about the cute Labrador you saw wagging its tail on Instagram yesterday. Kill that as well. And by now, I bet you’re either thinking – “Where the heck is he taking us?” or “What’s the 56th digit of Pi?” But play this game long enough – and you’ll come to a point where you don’t want to imagine a death of any creature. However bad. Then replace the word “creature” with “human”. And replace Bad with “innocent”. And then add “family” to the mix. Throw a “child” or 2 in as well for extra seasoning. And then imagine playing that entire scene out.
One step at a time. The insignificant killings of humans for minor perceived inconveniences. Like cockroaches.
Over and over again – deathly blows reigned with blunt weapons and stones. The sounds of crushing skulls – and the eerily sudden indication of death by the end of the screams. And then remove everything I’ve described from your head. And paint the picture black. And go back to the cockroach you once killed. And try killing it again.
Kashyap paints an image in your head you’ll pray you could un-see when it’s all over. And all that – with a black brush, on a black canvas.
You don’t see any of the actual blows. You just hear the sounds – and let your mind imagine the horror, and wait for the director to torture you some more by not showing the bodies immediately. And all this adds up to the most consistent element of the movie – the gripping intrigue and the need to know what’s next.
The soundtracks, like in “Ugly”, fit the scenes properly – but were understandably not as memorable as “Gangs of Wasseypur” or (the severely underrated) “Bombay Velvet”. ‘Behooda’ was the only one that stood out in context of this film though. The sound effects however – deliver more than expected – especially with the cliche yet chilling “pipe dragging” scenes and the “kindly-look-away-while-I-casually-bludgeon-the-dude-with-my-blunt-weapon” murders.
But what truly stands out in the movie – is the “Raghav” side of things. While Nawazuddin’s performance was unmatched – the perspective of Raghav, and the invisible line separating him from Raman is what truly makes this movie special.
But – like all great “Dark Knights”, the “Bale’s” are often overlooked cause of the “Ledger’s” involved.
Vicky Kaushal pulls off a strong performance – managing to portray just the right blend of fear coupled with an arrogant rage. The age old battle between two of the most opposing base requirements of humans – the need to be loved versus the need to be fearfully revered. Person who loves you too much wont fear you. Person who fears you too much won’t love you.
Person who does both – well that’s where you start calling them “psychotic” isn’t it?
Ultimately – Raman Raghav 2.0 asks all the important questions most serial killer movies tend to avoid. What makes a murderer “psychotic” or “deranged”? Does wealth and status in society truly make us any different from the murderers on the streets? Should murder under the garb of patriotism or caste make more sense than murder committed purely on a whim?
Who says they aren’t the same?
I don’t know.
All I know is that somewhere deep down – the deadly ‘Raman’ is the lesser of the 2 evils.
It’s kind of like – version One. Un-evolved and crude. In Beta.
But it’s the updated ‘Raghav’ we really got to look out for. That’s version 2.
And despite the restraining bars of our plush homes and comfortable jobs, we’re just one bad day away from adding our first name to a list that’s currently at ‘Raghav’.
Raman Raghav 2.0.
Guess the title makes more sense after all.